SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The widow of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died Thursday in the apartment where she led a secluded life in her final years, away from the luxuries and power she held during the military regime of 1973-1990, her family said. She was 98.
Lucia Hiriart died at her home in Santiago’s affluent La Dehesa neighborhood surrounded by close relatives, six days after her birthday, her son Marco Antonio said. She had been admitted on several occasions this year to Chile’s military hospital, mainly affected by respiratory problems.
Pinochet died in 2006, on Dec. 10, his 91st birthday.
Known for her strong character, Hiriart on many occasions influenced her husband’s decisions on whom to appoint to public office. She was also known for expensive tastes in clothes and in furnishing of her family’s homes.
Hiriart never had words of regret for the bloody legacy of her husband’s dictatorship, which resulted in more than 3,000 opponents killed, thousands of political prisoners tortured and tens of thousands forced into exile.
She was rarely seen in public in recent years. One of those occasions was in November 2015 when she attended a Mass in memory of her late husband, with whom she had three daughters and two sons.
Hiriart faced two judicial investigations related to a fortune that Pinochet was discovered to have in more than 100 bank accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.
In 2005, she was accused along with her son Marco Antonio of complicity in an $8.7 million tax fraud. In 2007, Hiriart, her five children and 17 other people from the dictator’s entourage were charged with embezzlement of public funds.
In both cases, Chile’s courts overturned the prosecutions of Hiriart and her family. Charges against Pinochet himself were dismissed after his death. The Chilean high court confiscated about 20 pieces of real estate from the family and seized $1.6 million from Pinochet’s bank accounts.
Pinochet’s accounts at Riggs Bank had been discovered by chance in 2004 during a U.S. congressional investigation into an unrelated matter.
An accounting audit valued Pinochet’s accounts at about $21 million, with the origin of $17.8 million undetermined. The former dictator claimed at the time that his funds abroad were “life savings.”
After news of Hiriat’s death surfaced Thursday, about 200 people, most of them young people born after democracy was resorted in Chile, gathered in a central square to celebrate. They waved flags and held up improvised posters against Hiriart.
“Lucía Hiriart dies in impunity despite the deep pain and division she caused our country,” said Gabriel Boric, the leftist candidate in Chile’s presidential runoff election Sunday.
His opponent, far-right politician José Antonio Kast, said that “the death of Mrs. Lucia will not move the election for either side.”
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